Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fête des familles

Last night we had our Farewell Show for the host families, the Fête des Familles.  All of the stagiaires performed either as a part of the theater group, the choir or the improv group. Some also gave individual performances.  After the show we had a dinner and party to mark the end of the program with the host families.

Tomorrow we leave for Paris for a few days and then its back to the USA on Saturday.  My how time flies!

Some photos of the stagiaires dancing to their favorite song at the party are posted at the link below. As well as a couple of photos/videos from the actual show and the party.  (There are more videos but the Internet is too slow right now to upload them. I will add them if I can.)

Fête des familles

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Last Week in Brest

Today marks the end of our last full week in Brest.  Wednesday morning we leave for a few days in Paris and then its back to the United States on Saturday.

This week we had our last classes, prepared for our Fête des Familles (a party and show being held with the host families Monday) and the stagiaires participated in two optional activities.

Thursday, we were invited to a play put on by a traveling troupe of young performers from the city of Rennes (the capital of Brittany).  The actors ranged in age from 15 to 19 and were performing a modern adaptation of a classic French folktale "La Barbe Bleue".  The story seems a little gruesome but it is well known in France and the modern adaptation of the tale made it quite comical.  Our stagiaires as well as the elementary school children in the audience all enjoyed the show.

Friday night, many of the stagiaires and their host families went Bowling.  Everyone had a good time and some of the stagiaires even demonstrated themselves to be quite proficient bowlers.  A few photos from the night are below and the rest can be viewed at the link.

Barbe Bleue and Bowling Photos

Another fun activity we had in the last few weeks was the Concours de desserts (dessert competition).  For the last three weeks, once a week a group of the stagiaires made a dessert with their host family and brought it in to class for everyone to taste.  This meant that once a week for the last three weeks everyone ate A LOT of dessert. But of course no one complained :)  Photos from the Concours de dessert can be viewed at the link below.

Concours de dessert photos

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Joyeux Anniversaire Caroline et La Danse Bretonne!

Thursday we celebrated Caroline Bedwell's birthday.  The cooks at the cafeteria where we have lunch made a lovely mille feuille (What's a mille feuille?) cake filled with apricots and peaches.  It was decorated with candied fruit and various flavors of macarons (What's a macaron?). All of the stagiaires sang and rapidly devoured the cake.

As you can see there wasn't much left once everyone had had their fill of dessert.

Thursday night was La Danse Bretonne.  The city of Brest is located in the region of Brittany.  One of the strongest cultural influences in this region is that of the Bretons who are a Celtic group, with a language and history separate from those of France.  The language is maintained in the region as well as other cultural practices, most notably, the traditional dancing.  Thanks to our coordinator, Jean-Paul, and a host mother, Fabienne, all of the stagiaires had the opportunity to learn and dance traditional Breton dances.

We all danced for about two hours Thursday night and worked up quite a sweat. Everyone had a lot of fun, stagiaires and instructors alike. Here are a few photos from the night, but there is also some video at the link below.

More photos!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Excursion #3

The last few days we've been pretty busy. Over the weekend, several of the stagiaires joined Loïc and me on a trip to Océanopolis, the local aquarium.  It was a nice visit and the aquarium had a lot of information about sea life that one finds off of the coasts of Brittany as well as in tropical and arctic environments.  Many of the stagiaires enjoyed touching the giant ice wall on display in the Arctic Pavilion.

On Tuesday we had our final excursion in Brittany to la Pointe des Espagnols, la Pointe de Pen-Hir, Camaret-sur-mer and Quimper.

At la Pointe des Espagnols, the stagiaires were able to get a view of the city of Brest from the other side of the bay.

While at la Pointe de Pen-Hir, the stagiaires posed for photos on the rocks and admired the scenic view of the sea.

After exploring the rocks and admiring the ocean view, we headed to the town of Camaret-sur-mer for lunch.  After everyone had eaten, the stagaires played on the beach and explored the town.

Our final destination on this excursion was the city of Quimper.  We first visited the Regional Breton Museum (Musée Departmental Breton) so that the stagiaires could fully engage with the history of the region they are spending their summer in.  

The museum included artifacts dating from prehistoric times to modern day.  It provided glimpses into all aspects of Breton life including traditions, festivals, folklore, clothing, religion, etc.  Below are just a few of the artifacts found in the museum.

Textiles and fabrics used in traditional Breton clothing

A closed bed
After the museum, we headed to the Cathedral Saint Corentin, which was just next door. 

Waiting to walk to the cathedral

La Cathédrale Saint Corentin - View from the museum
After touring the cathedral, the stagiaires were free to explore the city of Quimper. We are still in the midst of "les soldes" (semi-annual sales) so many chose shopping as their activity of choice.

Overall it was a great excursion. The weather was warm and sunny and we were able to take advantage of it by being outdoors as much as possible. It was a great final excursion in Brittany.

The rest of the photos from the excursion can be viewed at the link below:

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

For Independence Day, we had the wonderful opportunity to participate in an official ceremony commemorating the 4th of July and the relationship between the city of Brest and the United States that has existed since before Second World War.  The city of Brest was liberated by American troops and a ceremony is held annually at the American Monument to remember the links between our two countries.

This year, the ceremony was extra special because the American Consul for Western France, Mr. Robert Tate, was in attendance.  All of the stagiaires participated in the ceremony at the monument with Clare Mumford, Nicolas Wernert and Amy LoBue placing flowers at the base of the monument along with other representatives of US and French military, the Brest Mayor's office and the Consul himself.

After the ceremonial placing of the flowers, all of the stagiaires sang the Star-Spangled Banner and the French national anthem "La Marseillaise"(which we had been rehearsing since the start of the program) for the large crowd gathered for the event.  The stagiaires sang beautifully and we received numerous compliments on their performance.

Following the ceremony the stagiaires had the opportunity to enter the American Monument, a large tower, which is usually closed to the public.  Everyone climbed the 123 steps to the top to take in the breathtaking view of the sea and the city of Brest.

Following the ceremony and the brief visit of the monument, we were invited to a private concert by the Brittany Symphony Orchestra sponsored by the American Consul.  The orchestra performed two pieces by American composers and two by French composers to reflect the relationship that we were celebrating that day.  The first piece was "En Resonance" composed by Benoît Menut, a Brest local, followed by "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copeland. The third piece was "Heliotrope" by Daren Hagen, a piece inspired by the various jazz traditions in the United States. And finally "Symphony in C Major" by French composer Georges Bizet.

The concert was followed by a reception at the Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum) also sponsored by the American Consul. Here host families, stagiaires, musicians and government representatives mingled, snacked and chatted until nearly 11pm.

The day was a challenge for the stagiaires and reflected all of their commitment to the Honor Code and Language Commitment as everyone wanted to speak English to them.  But they were all consistent in their use of French even when surrounded by native English speakers and other Americans without the same pledge.

It was a long day, but a very memorable way to celebrate our national holiday and all were glad to have taken part in it.

Some photos from the event are posted at the link below. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take any during the ceremony as we were a part of it. But I hope to collect some photos from host families this weekend and add them to the album if possible.

The 4th of July